You can grab a cup of tea and sit down for the long version or click this link Curriculum Vitae and cut to the chase.)
I was born in Minneapolis and raised in St. Paul, the eldest child of five in a working class neighborhood. I met my husband in elementary school the same year they de-segregated our neighborhood school. I spent my adolescence in the 60’s and 70’s absorbing the events of the day; the Civil Rights Movement, the Equal Rights Amendment, the Peace Movement, the Cold War and the assassination of our leaders. I married my husband Steve, right out of high school in 1975 and starting having children (it’s what you did). In 1985, we took a leap of faith and moved our then-small family of four children to rural Willow River. We added three more children (yes, that’s a total of seven children by birth and adoption) to our large owner-built home where I spent many years raising children, gardens and various critters. Once all our kids were in school we then began doing therapeutic foster care supporting the needs of 36 additional children over sixteen years. Since then we have added five new adult members to our family and ten adorable, amazing and above average grandchildren.
Foster care work, along with the the loss of my grandmother (see MCS Story), inspired me to return to school and begin working toward a degree in counseling therapy. After graduating from UMD with a bachelors in psychology and communications I did my first graduate work in a distance learning program at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. When I say distance learning I mean all-over-the-world distances; my fellow student cohorts hailed from Chili and Ireland, from Indonesia and Brazil as well as all over this country, giving this now small town northern Minnesota woman a world-wide education. On top of that I was earning a masters in transpersonal psychology; an important first step for me in my desire to provide holistic help to people. Transpersonal Psychology is the intersection of psychology and spirituality; going beyond thoughts and feelings to the spirit and soul of the individual. With four semesters of meditation and self-reflection as core curriculum I learned and experienced first hand the gift of self-care and self-reflection. My understanding, empathy, compassion and role of curious witness was born and matured during my years at Naropa.
After Naropa I began work at the Rural AIDS Action Network as the case manager for east central Minnesota serving people infected with HIV/AIDS in my community. This was incredibly rewarding and humbling work connecting me with neighbors who were not only struggling with a terminal illness but mostly the overwhelming stigma and shame attached to their disease. Much of my work with clients revolved around the levels of grief and loss they were experiencing.
Working with foster youth for so many years I also saw a consistent sense of grief and loss within each of these children regardless of their mental health diagnosis. Following the profound loss and impact of grief after my grandmother died it seemed working with grief and loss was my path and it brought me to the Association of Death Educators and Counselors to study and become certified as a thanatologist (CT), a grief counselor, consultant and teacher. I began work as a grief counselor and educator in my community in 2004.
It became clear early on that my community and my clients needed more than what my current scope of practice as a grief counselor allowed so I returned to graduate school at St. Catherine University/University of St. Thomas’ master of clinical social work program (MSW). I am licensed as a graduate social worker (LGSW) and am receiving supervision toward a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (2018).
After getting my LGSW I became certified in Trauma Studies through the University of Minnesota, Adoption Competency with the Center for Adoption Support and Education, Permanency and Adoption Competency Certification through the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare, Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) through EMDRIA to enhance my counseling skills further.
To support my life-long love of learning, (for myself and others) in 2017 I began as adjunct faculty at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College teaching law enforcement, nursing and human services students about Death, Dying and Bereavement. Fond du Lac was where I began my college studies decades ago, it is so good to come back ‘home’ and teach. My very dear friend and fellow thanatologist willed me this class after she succumbed to ALS. Her and I traveled together, taught together, facilitated grief groups together, even wrote a book together. After hearing from so many of our group participants how hard it is to be grieving and hear some of the hurtful things people say to you when you are grieving we self-published Words that Hurt the Bereaved.
Over the years I’ve written several books. One of the first, the one hundred year history of Willow River called Flowing through the Century, was written in 1991 and no longer in print. It was so interesting to learn and to share the history of this tiny town I call home. Discovering the history of my town led me to my own family history as I wrote a book about the life of my grandmother. Sing Daisy for Me was gifted to my grandmother for her 90th birthday in 1992. Most recently, while doing a presentation on my grad school research, an acquisitions editor approached me to write a book on the subject. Throughout 2016 I wrote Grief Recovery for Teens: Letting Go of Painful Emotions with Body-based Practices published in 2017 by New Harbinger Publications, available at all bookstores and on Amazon. I think I have another book (or two) in me; wonder what the subject will be?
Also in 2016 to support the holistic and transformative nature of Monarch Services I became a Celebrant in 2016 to officiate at life transitions – weddings and funerals. I am honored to stand before families and friends as they celebrate beginnings and endings, to tell stories of love and courage, to share in the most important days in the lives of my neighbors, family and friends. It is truly gratifying and humbling and I am so blessed to serve in this way.
With all this experience and education comes wisdom and reflection, a level of expertise in a number of different areas of service to others. Thus began my consulting services that include trainings and workshops from Self-Care for the Professional Caregiver, Somatic Interventions in Trauma, Schools in Crisis – Helping Grieving Students, Finding Hope, The Cumulative Toll of our Work to Forgotten Mourners. Whether as a keynote speaker or presenting an hour-long presentation or an eight-hour training, consulting with others is one of the most energizing parts of my work; I learn so much when training and working with others.
When consulting with organizations, on self-care, re-thinking work practices, strategic planning, vision and mission building, I am always looking and thinking outside the box. What is new, innovate AND impactful when it comes to working and being in the field of caring and providing service to others? What’s most important for me in my consulting service is working to create an individual and custom learning and collaboration experience for organizations, NPOs or small businesses.
Monarch Services is located on the lower level of my large rural home along with the offices of Children’s Grief Connection where I serve as Executive Director. The rural setting provides confidentiality and peaceful surroundings that include a reflective pond, an outdoor labyrinth and a large play area (for children or the child-like).
I enjoy spending time with my husband and family, reading copious amounts of books, knitting, photography and writing. I practice mindfulness meditation, yoga and Qi Gong regularly. I hope to one day
climb a mountain (Machu Picchu 2017), fall out of a plane (on purpose), travel to my Grama’s homeland of Norway and live a joyful life well past 100 years of age.
(Whew! That was a lot; hope your tea’s not cold.)